So, as I was gearing up for this summer internship, I was told that a “VIP visitor” would be coming and that embassy resources/cars/etc. would consequently be usurped. Turns out, that VIP visitor is POTUS (that is, President of the United States)! I staffed a CODEL (Congressional Delegation) when I was an intern at the US embassy in Estonia in college, but a POTUS visit obviously represents the height of embassy logistical insanity as everyone works hard to provide security, lodging, cars, scheduling and who knows what else for the some 700+ diplomats, businessmen, Secret Service personnel and Presidents/first ladies (George W. and Laura Bush are also making an appearance!).
Obama is taking what is only his second presidential trip to Sub-Saharan Africa to launch an initiative to build energy infrastructure that could bring electricity to 100 million Africans. Currently, only 14% of Tanzania’s 46 million people have access to electricity.
So far, many articles I’ve read about why Obama is coming to Tanzania references the organization I’m working for this summer — Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). More on MCC later, but in short it is an independent U.S. aid agency founded in 2004 that distributes aid to countries based on a broad range of indicators (including governance and transparency), and focuses on local implementation and ownership. MCC’s Tanzania compact is the largest in its history ($689 million), and represents one of the largest US-government investments in African energy to date. Tanzania will be given a high-profile chance to show off the results of its work with MCC during the POTUS visit, as Obama will be accompanied by hundreds of businessmen and investors on his visit. Tanzania has also already been chosen for a second MCC compact that will again include energy as one area of focus. And on the American side, as MCC’s CEO so clearly stated, investing in a stable and prosperous Tanzania has strategic economic benefits for the U.S. as well. (Additional insight: PRC President Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March and signed $800 million in business/infrastructure deals.)
[President Obama and Tanzania President Kikwete in 2009, after Obama’s inauguration]